The three secrets to surviving a long layover

Free time is the most precious commodity in the world – except when it's gifted to you in the form of a long layover. In that case, it's a curse, a laborious spooling out of seconds and minutes and hours as you wait in limbo for your next flight to depart.

At first glance, solutions are absent: the airport benches on which you might otherwise recline are segmented by comfort-inhibiting metal armrests. Fluorescent lighting glares from above in some cruel plot to electrify your brain. Backpack-lugging, trolley-dragging posses rumble noisily by, eyes wide in terror they'll miss their flight.

The first step in surviving the long layover is to accept it. Though we all aim for the Goldilocks of connections – not too long, not too short, just right – there's no such thing as a perfect flight schedule, and unforeseen events can derail flawless plans. Moreover, travel is (mostly) a privilege. Would you rather be stuck at your desk back home or browsing the duty-free shops while waiting for a plane to take you to paradise?

The second step to surviving the long layover is to prepare for it. Can you access an airline lounge, either with your own loyalty membership or a day pass? If the answer's "yes" then your problem has just been halved. After all, who doesn't enjoy a lazy seven hours spent surfing the internet or reading a book or watching TV with wine and snacks (and clean toilets) to hand?

If the answer is "no", research other options for a pleasant stay. Many airports have transit hotels where you can book a room, a daybed – or even just a shower (Zurich Airport is a standout). Others have reclining chairs in the departure lounges and massage chairs in the common areas – but you'll need to be quick to nab one. And most airports have drastically improved their provision of power outlets in recent years. For very long transits, many airlines provide complimentary hotel accommodation; this is a great opportunity to freshen up then head out to explore – or to stay in and catch up on (horizontal) sleep.

The third step to surviving the long layover is to make the most of it. What else would you be doing, if you weren't stuck in an airport? Reading, working, shopping, eating, drinking? No one is stopping you from doing these things right here, right now. Same grind, different location.